Garfield County athletes rack up all-state accolades following end of spring sports season

Following the end of the 2023 Colorado High School Activities Association spring sports season, a number of athletes throughout Garfield County have been recognized on the all-state rosters for their respective sports.

As schools throughout the county saw athletic success throughout the duration of the 2023 season, below are the athletes who were awarded for their individual contributions:

Boys baseball

After a 26-2 finish that marked a historic season for the Coal Ridge High baseball team, three players found their names on the list of this year’s all-state honors.

Ben Simons, whose contributions on the diamond earned him the title of Western Slope League Player of the Year, and fellow teammate and graduating senior Brandon Short were both announced as representatives on this year’s 2nd team all-state roster. 

Short, who will continue his baseball career at Otero Junior College in La Junta, said it felt good to be recognized for his contributions throughout the season.

“I have never been on the all-state team so it truly was an honor to see my name on the list this year,” Short said. “I couldn’t have accomplished this without my coaches and team, but seeing my name among some of the best players in the state is a real confidence booster for me heading into my freshman year.”

Joining Simons and Short is incoming senior Alexis Serna, who was awarded honorable mention accolades for his contributions to this year’s Coal Ridge team.

Among others earning honorable mention honors are: Rifle junior Logan Gross  (Class 4A); Roaring Fork sophomore Cole Fenton; Basalt senior Chaney Morris.

Girls soccer

Already off to the United States Military Academy West Point to continue her track and field career, Mikayla Cheney earned 2nd team all-state honors for her contributions on the soccer pitch this season for Coal Ridge. 

Posting 17 points in 10 games played, Cheney helped lead the Titans to 4-3 league record and a third place finish in the Western Slope League. 

Earning honorable mention honors for their contributions on the field during the 2023 season are: Coal Ridge seniors Gwynn Apostolik and Mari Stevens; Basalt senior Emma Jefferies and junior Jacey Reed.

Girls track and field

Dominating track and field meets throughout the course of the season, Coal Ridge saw five athletes awarded all-state recognition following the conclusion of the season.

The girls 800 meter sprint medley, which was composed of seniors Jackie Camunez and Aceleigh Porter, along with juniors Nicole Herrera and Rilyn Krueger, placed first at this year’s track and field state championships. Now, the four athletes not only call themselves state champions, but all-state athletes as well.

Camunez, who also earned all-state recognition for her part in bringing home two 4×400 relay state titles her sophomore and junior years, said it’s great to be recognized along with her teammates.

“It feels great to be able to share this success with these girls,” Camunez said. “We have been together for a couple years and to see the progression from each of us is really special.”

Also earning all-state accolades this year is sophomore Brille Jensen. Jensen, who took first place in shot put at this year’s state championships, said she looks forward to growing off the success she saw this season.

“I still have a lot of small goals for myself that I want to accomplish,” Jensen said. “It feels great to be recognized and I hope I can continue to get my name on the all-state list these next couple years.”

Girls lacrosse

Roaring Fork senior Sophie Hodgson has long awaited to find her name among some of the best girls lacrosse players in Colorado. After earning honorable mention accolades both her sophomore and junior seasons, that wait has finally come to an end.

Racking up 113 goals during the course of her career despite having her freshman year cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hodgson played a key part in leading the Roaring Fork girls lacrosse team to the 4A state quarterfinals in this year’s playoffs. Knocking off Aspen High School to get there, Hodgson is among those listed on this year’s second team all-state roster

“The team always pushed each other to get better and it really showed in our playoff run,” Hodgson said. “To finally have my name mentioned on the all-state team showed me that my hard work paid off which was really cool for me.”

Hodgson will now look toward kick-starting her freshman year at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is still considering trying out for the school’s girls club lacrosse team.

Coal Ridge baseball gearing up to keep undefeated season alive in state playoffs

The No.4 Coal Ridge baseball team will look to keep their undefeated season alive on Friday, facing off against No.5 Montezuma-Cortez in the first round of the Colorado 3A state playoffs in Greeley.

Outscoring opponents by a margin of 313-59 leading up to Friday’s matchup, the Coal Ridge Titans have displayed nothing short of dominance throughout the year. Now, five games stand in between them and the school’s first-ever state championship.

Coal Ridge head coach Dan Larsen said, he along with the team knows where they stand coming into the tournament.

“We are really excited for the opportunity to compete this weekend and we are going to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Larsen said. “We know what we have accomplished so far but we haven’t reached our end goal.”

Led by lone senior Brandon Short, who will continue his playing career at Otero Junior College in La Junta following graduation, Coal Ridge boasts a young roster, carrying nine under-classmen on the varsity team. Larsen said the youth on the team is not something he is worried about.

“These younger guys have proven they can play and have made some big contributions during the season,” Larsen said. “It’s not something I’m worried about because I know what they bring to the table.”

While the team’s focus lies on walking away with a pair of victories this weekend to advance to the final four, set to be played June 2-3, Short will forgo walking at Coal Ridge High School’s graduation on Saturday to help his team continue their historic season.

“It was definitely a tough decision but helping this team is what’s most important to me right now,” Short said. “I want to go out there and do everything I can to help us win a championship.”

In a double-elimination playoff format, Coal Ridge will face Montezuma-Cortez at 11:30 a.m. on Friday at University High School. The winner of the game will face off again Friday at 2 p.m. at University High School against the winner of No.1 Eaton vs. No.25 Peak to Peak. 

Larsen said the team is continuing to focus on one game at a time.

“The mentality of this team has been who’s the next team that’s in our way of accomplishing what we want to accomplish,” Larsen said. “That was our mentality at the end of the season and during regionals and that will be our mentality in the state tournament.”

Fellow Western Slope League team Delta High School is also set to appear in the 3A state playoffs. The No. 7  Panthers will take on No. 2 University High School at 11:30 a.m. on Friday at Butch Butler Field.

Coal Ridge baseball, at 23-0, earns 4th seed in 3A state tourney, hosts regional round Saturday

The Coal Ridge High School baseball team, winners of the 3A Western Slope League after an undefeated regular season, takes its game to the regional round of the state tournament this weekend.

The Titans earned the No. 4 seed overall in the 32-team field after going 23-0, and will host one of the eight regional tournaments on Saturday at the school in Peach Valley.

Coal Ridge plays No. 29 Wellington (10-13) at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the winner squaring off against the winner of No. 13 La Junta (15-8) versus No. 20 Brush (11-12) in the afternoon. The winner of that game advances to the Great 8 next week.

Earning the top seed among the 3A contenders was Eaton, also at 23-0, followed in the tournament seeding by No. 2 University (21-2), No. 3 Bayfield (16-4), No. 4 Coal Ridge (23-0), No. 5 Montezuma Cortez (19-4), No. 6 Faith Christian (20-2), No. 7 Delta (18-5) and No. 8 Resurrection Christian (15-7).

Roaring Fork (14-9) is also in the 3A tournament as the No. 17 seed, playing on the road at the Eaton regional, and No. 18 Basalt (11-12) is at the University regional. The Rams open at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against No. 16 Alamosa (12-7), and Basalt plays No. 15 Valley (16-7), also at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, Rifle made the 32-team Class 4A regional field as the No. 25 seed. The Bears (12-9) open at 10 a.m. Saturday against the regional host, No. 8 Windsor (17-6).

Post Independent interim managing editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at or at 970-384-9160.

Garfield County track stars taking talents to Division I following state track championships

Two Garfield County track stars, Coal Ridge’s Mikayla Cheney and Glenwood Springs’ Sophia Connerton-Nevin, will take their talents to two well-respected Division I collegiate programs following this weekend’s Colorado High School Activities Association Track and Field State Championships.

Earlier this week, Connerton-Nevin signed her National Letter of Intent to attend San Diego State University.

A two-sport athlete, but choosing to strictly focus on track and field during her senior year, Connerton-Nevin’s decision paid off, clocking the 14th best time (11:29.35) in the 3200-meter event throughout the state to earn herself a trip to the state championships.

On Thursday morning, she competed in the Class 4A girls 3200-meter race, but was unfortunately unable to finish the race in a field that saw Niwot’s Addison Ritzenhein take the win in 10:30.05 followed by a slew of runners who came in under 11 minutes. 

It was Connerton-Nevin’s first year competing in the state 3200-meter race, but she has qualified in two of her previous three years of high school in the shorter distance events (800 and 1600 meters; with her freshman year stripped due to COVID-19). She expressed her excitement after her Tuesday signing to compete at state one last time.

“I’m going into the event excited to see what I can do, just because I’m so new to the event,” Connerton-Nevin said. “I’ve only run the 3200 three times during high school and I know it’s going to be a competitive event.”

Connerton-Nevin also said she is excited to kick start her college career starting in August. With offers to run at the University of Southern California, as well as California Polytechnic State University, Connerton-Nevin said it came down to what felt like the right fit.

“Everything from the coaching to the campus just felt like it was the place where I wanted to spend my college years,” Connerton-Nevin said. “I’m excited to get out there and experience that next level of competition and be the best I can be.”

Connerton-Nevin said she is also excited to embrace the warm weather.

Sophia Connerton-Nevin, left, with her mother Amy Connerton, signs her National Letter of Intent to attend San Diego State University on Tuesday, May 16.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Cheney, on the other hand, will be embracing the cold winters when she finds her way to the United States Military Academy West Point in New York to continue her track career.

She is set to compete in the state track championships at the 3A level on Friday and Saturday in four different events, but she actually qualified in five individual events (the 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 meters), and has been a key member of the Lady Titans relay teams.

Returning from hip surgery last May, Cheney came back strong this season, placing in the top-18 in the five events over the course of the season to qualify for the state championships. However, the Colorado High School Activities Association only allows athletes to participate in four events at the state meet.

Dropping the 200- and 400-meter races, Cheney is planning to compete in the 4×400 relay, plus the 3200-, 1600- and 800-meter races. 

“I’m really excited to have the chance to go out there and compete,” Cheney said. “It’s been a long journey this past year and I’m happy my recovery has brought me here.”

Referencing the hip surgery, Cheney said she had to forgo her fall volleyball and cross country seasons this school year for recovery purposes. Originally committed to West Point, Cheney was initially disqualified from the academy due to medical reasons. Thanks to help from her collegiate coaches, Cheney once again has an opportunity to attend the academy.

“The coaches there really fought for my acceptance and that’s really when I realized it was the right school for me,” Cheney said. 

Also considering schools such as San Diego State University and the University of Wyoming, Cheney said the environment of the school is a challenge that not only is she willing to accept, but one that helped sway her decision.

“It’s a whole new world out there,” she said. “The order, structure and leadership was something that was incredible to see and I realized that it’s something that I want to be a part of.”

With that excitement, Cheney said there are also a lot of nerves taking place before departing for boot camp on June 26.

“I do have a lot of nerves but I would consider them good nerves,” Cheney said. “For six weeks, I’ll be waking up at 5 a.m. every day. It’s going to be an interesting transition, but really it’s just the same nerves that I get when I step on the line before a track race.”

Following the state track championships, both Connerton-Nevin and Cheney are set to walk across the stage and receive their high school diplomas at their respective high school graduations on May 27.

Post Independent education and sports reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 or

Fred Heisel stepping down as Glenwood Springs head basketball coach

After five seasons as the head basketball coach at Glenwood Springs High School, Fred Heisel said he will step down due to family reasons.

Only a few short months after making an appearance in the Colorado 5A State Playoffs and capturing a 5A Western Slope League title, Glenwood Springs will now be in pursuit of a new head coach to take the helm.

While Heisel said stepping down is not something he wants to do, he emphasized that it’s something he needs to do.

“My time as head coach has been great to me but I have to do what’s best for my family,” Heisel said. “I’ve had some great years at Glenwood and I have enjoyed watching these kids come in at a young age and grow into the men that they have become.”

A former player at Glenwood Springs High from 1984-88 before continuing his basketball career at Regis University, Heisel took over the reins of his alma mater in 2018 following a stint as the head coach at Glenwood Springs Middle School.

Since then, Heisel has led the team to three winning seasons in his five years as the leader of the program, compiling an overall record of 70-43. 

While his time as head coach has come to an end, Heisel said he will still be around the program come the 2023-24 season.

“I will definitely attend some open gyms next season and I am excited to attend the games and see what the team is able to do,” Heisel said. “This is part of life and who knows, if I feel the time is right maybe I’ll have a future in coaching.”

As Heisel steps down from his position, those within the valley know how important of a role he has played in the last five years. 

Mike Vidakovich, who helped coached Heisel during his high school years and has continued to be a member of the sports world throughout the valley, said the loss of Heisel at the helm of the Demons is a big one.

“His leadership is unmatched, both during his playing days and now during his time as a coach,” Vidakovich said. “He knows how to get the most out of his players. He’s a man that his players want to play for.”

Under new leadership, the Glenwood Springs boys basketball program will look to repeat the success that they saw during the 2022-23 season, in which they went 17-8 following a 9-15 season in 2021-22.

Post Independent education and sports reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 or

Coal Ridge baseball mercy rules Rangely in double-header, finishes regular season undefeated

While the weather during Coal Ridge baseball’s double-header against Rangley Tuesday may have taken a turn in between games, the outcome of both games stayed the same. The Titans mercy ruled the Panthers in the third inning of both games to finish the regular season with a perfect record.

Never close, the No.3 Titans outscored Rangely by a combined score of 42-2 over six innings of play.

While Rangely had its share of both pitching struggles and errors throughout the course of both games, it was Coal Ridge’s impressive batting on the day that allowed them to run up the score.

In the first game, Coal Ridge senior Brandon Short blasted a two-run home run, accounting for only a handful of the 13 runs that the team would find themselves putting onto the scoreboard during the first inning alone.

Shortly after, Coal Ridge sophomore Ben Simons would do the same, blasting a two-run home run and furthering the gap between the two teams. 

Junior Alexis Serna also scored four runs and stole three bases during the first bout. Freshman Dylan Miller also contributed, going 3-for-3 while accounting for five RBIs.

The first game ended by a score of 20-0.

While Rangley was never an opponent to be overlooked, boasting a 10-8 record in the class 2A division, Short said Tuesday’s double header was one they were confident they could walk away from with the wins needed to finish the regular season unbeaten.

“We wanted these games and we wanted to be a part of history at this school,” Short said. “It’s a really good feeling but we still have to go out there and play our game on Saturday (when 3A state tournament play begins).”

In the second game, Serna would continue to do what he does best, stealing two bases and putting up four runs.

While the team never lost a step and continued to log a number of runs, Rangley would answer with two runs in the second inning to make it a 9-2 ball game.

Following a pitching change for Rangely, it was eight walks in a row that would allow for the Titans to go on a 13 score run in the third inning and notch their second mercy rule of the day.

Simons said despite two mercy rules and finishing the season with a perfect 23-0 record, Tuesday’s matchups were about continuing to carry the momentum.

“We don’t want to lose a step and we really wanted to come out here and tighten things up before playoffs,” Simons said.

What looks to be a sure fire guarantee to capture a one-seed heading into tournament play, head coach Dan Larsen said he is excited for the team, but even more so excited for what lies ahead.

“We’ve proven to ourselves what we can do,” Larsen said. “We just have to put our heads down and continue to work.”

The 2023 Colorado High School Activities Association baseball bracket is expected to be released on Wednesday.

Other Monday/Tuesday baseball scores: Glenwood Springs 9-6 over Summit 6; Delta 8-0 over Roaring Fork; Rifle 10-9 over Summit; Cedaredge 20-2 over Grand Valley.

Post Independent education and sports reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 or

Glenwood High boys lacrosse falls to 3-5 following loss to No. 8 Steamboat Springs

The Glenwood Springs High boys lacrosse team hosted Class 4A and No. 8 ranked Steamboat Springs Sailors on Tuesday, falling to the Sailors by a score of 16-5.

As the Demons jumped out to a 1-0 lead following an early goal from Glenwood sophomore attackman Tristan Bledsaw, Steamboat would quickly answer and find themselves carrying an 11-3 lead going into halftime. Carrying all the momentum, the Sailors offense would not slow down on the day, finishing the day with a number of different goal scorers and advancing to 9-2 on the season. 

Carrying a two game losing streak, Glenwood will look to bounce back on Saturday against league foe Summit High School.

Steamboat Springs will look to continue to add to their win column when they take on Vail Mountain High School at home on April 27.

Class 3A Coal Ridge baseball beats 4A Rifle 2-1 to stay undefeated

Thursday’s matchup between the No. 3-ranked Class 3A Coal Ridge (11-0) and 4A Rifle (6-5) baseball teams came down to the wire, but Coal Ridge’s impressive pitching from senior Brandon Short was enough to keep them undefeated on the season.

Outsourcing their opponents 140-30 in 10 games this season, the Titans were given their toughest test Thursday, beating the Bears by a score of 2-1. 

Led by junior Alexis Serna, who scored both runs on the day, it was Short’s impressive performance, including 17 strikeouts, that secured the victory.

A 1-1 game heading into the fifth inning thanks to a home run from Rifle’s Connor Abbot, Serna would quickly find home plate in the top of the fifth thanks to a single from sophomore Ben Simons that would send Serna home from second base. 

One of only four upperclassmen on a young Coal Ridge team, Serna recognizes the talent Coal Ridge will have for years to come.

“The underclassmen have been phenomenal for us this year,” Serna said. “Coming into the season, you could tell that we were gonna have a lot of young guys who were gonna do some really big things for us.”

Serna isn’t the only one who has noticed the contributions from the underclassmen. Head Coach Dan Larsen recognized the special group of freshmen that he was inheriting early in the season.

“I didn’t know this class of incoming freshmen was such a stellar class and so once I saw them for the first time I knew this team had the opportunity to do something special,” Larsen said. 

A special group that has beaten six of its 11 opponents by 10 or more runs, Larsen said the expectations for the rest of the season are sky high.

“We know what we’re capable of at this point,” Larsen said. “We have the same end goal as every other team in the state and I think everyone on this team knows we can accomplish that goal.”

With 12 games left in the regular season, Serna knows that Coal Ridge’s undefeated season is no fluke.

“We’ve worked hard to get to where we are,” Serna said. “This team takes practice seriously and we play every game like it’s going to be our last.”

Preparing for a double-header at home against North Folk High School on Saturday, Coal Ridge will look to keep their undefeated season alive.

Rifle hopes to bounce back when they play Palisade High School at home on April 25.

PHOTOS: Rifle baseball takes down Glenwood Springs during Monday’s double-header bout

The Rifle High baseball team (6-4) traveled to Glenwood Springs Middle School on Monday to take on Glenwood Springs High (3-9) in a doubleheader.

Scoring five runs in the second inning to get out to an early lead, Rifle was able to capture early momentum in the first of two games. Glenwood Springs would not go down easy, scoring four runs in the third inning and tying the game at 5-5 heading into the top of the sixth inning. Scoring two runs in the top of the seventh, Rifle pulled away with a 7-5 victory in the first matchup of the season between the two schools.

Scoring three runs each in the first and third innings of the second game, Rifle carried a comfortable lead throughout the second matchup. Rifle now moves to 6-4 on the season and will look to move their win streak to four games in a row in a matchup at Coal Ridge High School on Thursday.

Glenwood Springs will look to put their names back in the win column Tuesday when they host Grand Junction Central.

Rifle senior Ryan Thomas prepares to take off to head to third base during Monday’s double-header versus Glenwood Springs.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
Glenwood Springs sophomore Mason Markovich rounds first base after hitting a double.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
Rifle senior catcher Kade Street gets ready to begin a new inning.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
Rifle senior Connor Abbot prepares for a pitch.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
A Rifle coach looks on as senior Ryan Thomas eases his way towards third base.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
Rifle sophomore Joseph Spritzer tracks in a ball in the outfield.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
Rifle senior Logan Gross takes the pitcher’s mound.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent
A Glenwood Springs player prepares for a pitch during the fifth inning of Saturday’s first of two games.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

PHOTOS: Recent Rifle basketball, Coal Ridge wrestling action

Friday saw Rifle girls and boys basketball host Basalt. Meanwhile, Coal Ridge High School wrestling squared off against North Fork and Glenwood Springs at home Friday before gaining a second-place team finish in Meeker on Saturday.

Rifle boys basketball lost to the Longhorns 57-21 but they came back on Tuesday to beat Hayden at home 50-43. The 1-17 Bears tip-off against Coal Ridge in Titans territory at 7 p.m. Friday.

Rifle girls basketball also lost to the Longhorns, 46-30. The girls are now 7-12, 2-6 and also play Coal Ridge in Titans territory, at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Rifle junior Sterling Cook controls the ball against Basalt at home Friday.
Courtesy/Theresa Hamilton
Rifle junior Denisse Orozco dribbles downcourt at home against Basalt on Friday.
Courtesy/Theresa Hamilton
Rifle junior Brooke Allen takes a jump shot at home against Basalt on Friday.
Courtesy/Theresa Hamilton
Coal Ridge’s Cooper Thurmon subdues a North Fork opponent at home Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Coal Ridge senior Brandon Short, left, shakes hand with his North Fork opponent at home Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent